Walter Schroth, the owner of the family lumber business Schroth Industries in White Township, was elected in 2005 and re-elected in 2009. He’s running for a third term.
He voted in favor of the realignment plan and led the discussion resulting in adoption of the second plan, calling for a voter referendum on a 12 mill tax increase that, if approved, could help the district afford to hire more teachers and avert the need to realign elementary attendance.
“The first thing is to sit down with new board members who come on in December and make sure they are up to speed,” Schroth said. “Some may or may not have attended all the meetings and may need to be brought up to speed, so we must include all new board members in the process, and find out whether there is sufficient support from the newly constituted board to press on.”
Absent from the community forum, Schroth told the Gazette that the board needs the administration to outline a plan for implementing the realignment.
The best ways to cut costs, Schroth said, would be to negotiate with the teachers’ association for savings in health care plans and salaries in the next contract.
Second, Schroth said, the district should rely on attrition, but he warned that the district may need to replace more retirees to maintain small class sizes.
“The third area is in part what the grade realignment is to do,” Schroth said. “From an operational point of view, this is much more efficient.”
Schroth favors lower starting salaries, if the teachers association agrees to it.
“The average salary in Pennsylvania … is in the low 40s, about $41,000 or $42,000,” he said. But Indiana’s is closer to $60,000.
“If we can get ours down to low- to mid-40s, it would have a huge impact on our budget. If we had that lower staring salary, it really would allow us the opportunity to hire additional elementary teachers to keep class size low.”
While the cost of the athletic program is not out of line, Schroth said, the program could better support itself.
“We are looking at, realistically, 1.5 to 2 percent of our entire budget for the athletic program,” Schroth said. “It’s probably fairly comparable to what other districts do. We’re certainly in that ballpark.
“The question becomes … whether pay-to-play is a reasonable approach to reduce our operating expense. Things like that could reduce our operating expenses or produce a different source of revenue that would have a marginal impact.”
Schroth said the pre-kindergarten and kindergarten programs have his unqualified support.
“Yes, I approve of both and think they are very strong benefit to our students,” he said. “The reality is that in the 21st century, if a student does not come to kindergarten without knowing his letters and numbers, they are at a disadvantage.”
Schroth said he agrees with research that shows the third grade is the most critical time for students to be reading as they should.
His list of the top priorities to improve education begins with ensuring that students graduate with the skills necessary for being successful and productive.
Maintaining solid financial footing is next.
“The reality is if you do not have a stable sustainable financial plan or program, it makes it almost impossible to provide the academic resources necessary to achieve the first goal.”